Mobilizing to Mentor Women in STEM
Lorna Donatone
Lorna Donatone
CEO, Sodexo Schools Worldwide President, Sodexo North America

Women have made huge strides in their pursuit of higher education and now earn more associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees than men. Yet they remain noticeably absent from STEM careers despite strong job growth in the past decade and solid projections for continued growth. There’s a lot of incentive: according to Forbes, careers in STEM industries offer better compensation and more career advancement opportunities. In fact, women who hold STEM positions earn 92 cents to the dollar versus 77 cents for women in other fields.

Yet the STEM workforce in the U.S. remains 74% male.

By 2022, the U.S. will need more than 9 million STEM professionals to fill projected job openings. With only 18% of bachelor’s degrees conferred in core STEM subjects, the talent gap is huge. Clearly, given women’s academic accomplishments, it’s not a lack of ability. The female pioneers in STEM careers were determined to forge ahead despite discrimination, they were helped by the demand for experts during World War II, when men were drafted or enlisted, for top-secret research projects. Americans recognized that science and scientists were valuable, and opportunities opened up for women.

While women have broken a lot of barriers, there are still barriers in pursuing STEM careers. An article in the New York Times by a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Yale is a disturbing revelation, illustrating why even women who receive STEM degrees may not pursue careers in these fields or stay in STEM professions. There are obstacles all along the way starting in childhood with “scientists as geeks” stereotypes discouraging all but the most determined. In other cultures, a gift for math is often seen as demonstrating that a person is intuitive and creative. Sadly, this is not the case in the U.S. and it needs to change, fast.

The Million Women Mentors program is designed to create the radical paradigm shift we need to encourage young women to pursue STEM careers. By creating all-inclusive pathway from early childhood and early education, elementary school, middle school, high school through higher education, and early career, they can be mentored at every step to reach their full potential. And, since only 41% of the women who enter the workforce continue in the same kind of job 10 years later, we need to sustain them during their early career phase, through one-on-one mentoring, online support, internships and on-the-job shadowing. Sponsorships are even better, which involve supporting and championing women through their early career to help them advance.

To achieve this goal, people from all different industry sectors are needed: from public sector, as well as entrepreneurs. By mobilizing a million men and women to sign up and pledge as mentors, a pool of people can be created who can be paired up with young girls and women. Everyone benefits when our youth can make full use of their abilities and supporting STEM education is a clear win-win.

Participate in the discussion!  How do you mobilize women in the workplace?


Lorna Donatone is the CEO of Sodexo Schools Worldwide and a strong advocate for the new performance frontier: Quality of Life. Ms. Donatone believes that student well-being is key to better performance in the classroom, on the playing fields and in the community. 


4 comments on “Mobilizing to Mentor Women in STEM

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    This is a wonderful project and so important, for STEM and all students.

    The sooner we recognize the need for increased collaboration like this, the better our workplace, graduation successes and employability will be. Thank you, Lorna, for shedding light on The Million Women Mentors initiative.

    The research I have done for and other projects indeed reveals the value of mentor relationships on professional and personal development. I would love to learn more and see how we may be able to help.


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    The root of the problem is most elementary teachers don’t like math and only take as much math in school to get by Maybe we should have a special endorsement for math? At the elementary level science is mostly memorizing and safe experiments. Math is the big push so book companies are publishing the latest and greatest cure to get the most, money from schools and don’t care about the authors backgrounds. To be successful you need special people that understand math and understand how the human brain works and develops. Both are equally important and need to work as a team. Children that haves secure teachers with a good curriculum will thrive. For example the New York math doesn’t take child development into mind. To add to the problem the teacher may think she is teaching a subtraction problem when the problem is comparing. The teacher had followed the script knows that it’s not developmentally appropriate and feels beat up at the end of the day. When girls don’t feel that math is a dirty they will go into stem jobs.

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    This is a wonderful program that we are trying to implement in D.R.Congo! The problem in my country with STEM is that youth in general and girls in particular are no longer interested by stem courses. There is a lack of materials, lack of laboratories for experience and capacity of teachers are not strengthen (trainings, workshops…).
    STEM are dying in D.R.Congo and I am begging those one who can help, to do it.

    Jolie Massay
    Independent Member GWI

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    Thank you for being the stand that you are for women in STEM. Mentorship and helping to support and foster other women in STEM is incredibly important to not only getting women into these fields and also retaining them.

    We as women must start viewing other women as our allies, not our enemies. One woman making it means that all women everywhere have made it and that serves as the new “starting point”. I am honored to be part of the vision in shifting the gender disparity and diversity gap in STEAM fields with the Wonder Women Tech conference in Long Beach July 2016 and fostering underrepresented youth to learn to code and build games for free. Blessed!

    As Madeleine Albright said “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”.

    With gratitude,
    Simmone Park


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